During this weekend's sweep of the Diamondbacks, Jeurys Familia was one of the many Mets with standout performances. But there was little buzz over his two perfect innings. In fact, his entire resurgent season has largely flown under the radar.
After three straight seasons as one of the best relievers in baseball, Familia's brutal 2017 was an alarming blow to a struggling team. Between a suspension related to a domestic violence arrest and surgery for a blood clot, he threw only 24.2 innings with an ERA of 4.38 -- nearly two full runs higher than his career mark -- and had only six saves on the year.
Familia's most notable weakness has always been his walk rate, which in 2017 jumped to 5.5 batters per nine innings. Aside from a slight drop in his strikeout rate (which has never been elite in the current environment), Familia's other statistics largely held stable, suggesting a return to form wasn't out of reach. Looking back, it seems that rustiness from lost time and lingering effects of a short-term injury were to blame for his ineffectiveness, both of which have fully resolved.
Not only has Familia cut his walk rate nearly in half since last season, he is actually sporting his best mark since the personal-best 2.2 batters per nine innings he set in 2015. He is also striking out a career-high 11 batters per nine innings and has reduced his already-impressive home run rate -- no easy feat in today's power-heavy league. His devastating sinker, which is his primary pitch, has been as lively as ever, complemented by one of the most effective sliders among all relievers.
Despite the dominant season we are seeing from Familia -- who has a 1.71 ERA (2.42 FIP) and 0.95 WHIP with 12 saves and 26 strikeouts in 21.0 innings (21 games) -- there is remarkably little coverage of it. Many fans are still smarting from recent playoff losses attributed to him, and there has always been the perception that, even during his exceptional 2014-16 stretch, he allowed more baserunners or blew more saves than most elite relievers -- both of which are incorrect.
In truth, emotions run high at the end of a tight game and every hit and every run looms large. Familia's 80 percent save percentage this season is well above league average, and his career rate is even higher.
Nationally, Familia may not be getting the recognition he deserves because of a number of other notable achievements by relievers this year, from Josh Hader striking out two batters per inning for the Brewers to Jordan Hicks averaging over 100 MPH for the Cardinals. Familia's career-best strikeout rate doesn't even rank in the top 40 among qualified relievers, and those are still the numbers that get noticed (and get guys paid).
Familia's steady, understated success has become a hallmark for him, as he's racked up the third-most saves of any pitcher since 2015, despite missing the bulk of 2017, with an ERA that places him in the company of Craig Kimbrel and Dellin Betances. While the blown saves will always come, the Mets can feel comfortable knowing there are few pitchers on the planet you'd rather have take the mound in the ninth than Familia.
Maggie Wiggin (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Archive Posts) has been a Mets fan since birth and a MetsBlog contributor since 2013. She loves throwing hard and hitting hard and hates the DH. When baseball is out of season, she fills her days with data analysis and evaluation and patiently waits for Spring